Brandon Astor Jones was convicted of murder in 1979 for the killing of Roger Tackett, the manager of a Tenneco convenience store, in Cobb. Jones killed Tackett along with his co-defendant, Van Roosevelt Solomon.
Jones was sentenced to death but was later given a new trial when a federal judge ruled jurors had improperly been allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room.
He was sentenced to death again in 1997 after a second trial.
That sentence was upheld Thursday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Attorneys for Jones argued a prosecutor in the 1997 trial had wrongly commented on Jones’ decision not to testify.
During closing statements, the prosecutor told the jury Jones had shown no remorse in his killing.
“None of the defense witnesses who testified told you anything about Jones being remorseful. Again, I hope I’m wrong,” the prosecutor said, according to court documents. “No one has claimed through Jones’ lawyers or his writings that he has apologized to the Tackett family or sought their forgiveness. No one has claimed through Jones’ website on the Internet that he’s apologized to the Tackett family or sought their forgiveness.”
During deliberations, the jury told the court it was unable to reach a verdict because one juror opposed capital punishment under any circumstances.
Still, the judge issued a charge to the jury that encouraged them to continue deliberation.
Three hours later, the jury sentenced Jones to death.
It was a burglary gone wrong that left Tackett dead and Jones on death row.
On June 16, 1979, Tackett had just arrived at the Tenneco convenience store, where he was a manager, to close the business for the night. After other employees left at about 11:20 p.m., Tackett stayed inside to finish paperwork.
Almost two hours later, a Cobb police officer drove a stranded driver to the parking lot of the convenience store to use a pay phone. The officer saw Tackett’s car in the parking lot with its door open and lights still on inside the store.
Realizing the store usually closed at about midnight, the officer, identified as Officer Kendall in court documents, approached the business where he saw Jones stick his head out of a door in the back of the store, look around and close the door.
Then he heard four shots.
Jones was ordered to open the door and when he failed to do so, Kendall entered the room finding Jones and Solomon, his co-defendant, inside and arrested both men.
While being questioned by a private security officer who responded to Kendall’s radio call for backup, Jones said the pair had come to rob the store and found a man who was “bad hurt” in the store, according to court documents.
Tackett’s body was found lying face-down in the storeroom of the business. He had been shot five times from behind, once in the jaw, once behind the left ear, once in the thumb and twice in the right hip.